Carcassonne at the Hospital

Melissa has had some pretty severe gastrointestinal problems in the past and last Thursday evening we had to pay a visit to the Emergency Room.  She was admitted to the hospital later that same evening and I’ve been staying with her everyday until things gets resolved.

We took a break last evening and went for a stroll from her hospital room and walked down to the lounge area for visitors on the same floor.  It’s a nice area, with a large fish tank and some shelves with books.  We spotted a really nice round wooden table with chairs.  Both of us thought the same thing: “Hey, we could play a board game there.”

So today we had our teenager, Nicholas, before he came to the hospital to visit, bring our copy of Carcassonne with him from home.  And we played a game this evening in the lounge.  Melissa took a panorama photograph during the game.

carcassonne_hospital_2014

 

You can see the fish tank back behind my left shoulder.  That’s her “IV pole” on the right.  It was a pleasant break and we enjoyed playing a competitive but relaxing game before going back to her room.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that of course she won.  She always does.  It’s her favorite game.  Or one of them.  Final score was 143 to 67.  It was still fun for me even though I lost by more than half the points.

Games Played in 2008

Here is a summary of board games I played in 2008.  These are “face-to-face” games, not games played with a computer.  I expect game playing to be a regular activity for the remainder of December, with the Holidays and all, so these numbers are expected to change.  It is interesting for me to see how many different board games I played this past year.  And it’s also interesting how some of the really “hot” board games from 2007 didn’t see as much activity this year.

I also believe that 2008 was an excellent year for new board games.  There were so many interesting titles that hit the table this year.  For some of the games, they were played a lot at first and then less often in the following months.  However, this was not always because of the attraction of new games to try, rather that there were so many exceptional great games we added in 2008, so we were always rotating through more game titles than usual.

This summary is ranked from most frequently played to least. Most frequently played is first.

Carcassonne
2 – 5 players
60 minutes
Ages 8+
Played in 2008: 30
This was one of the first “euro” games we purchased and still remains a favorite.  I think we own all the expansions but frequently play with just a few:
Inns & Cathedrals
Traders & Builders
Abbey & Mayor

Pandemic
2 – 4 players
45 minutes
Ages 10+
Played in 2008: 28

A new game for us in 2008.  I’ve played this game at work over lunch, at home with family and out with friends.  It’s a cooperative  board game, all the players struggle to beat the game itself.  The theme is that each player is a researcher working in a team trying to save the world from outbreaks of diseases.  The game mechanics are quite clever and the game components and colors are first-rate.  This is an excellent game, and obviously very popular.  Pandemic is one of the those games that when it gets newly introduced to people, they often want to go out and purchase their own copy.

I still enjoy playing this game and even enjoy playing it solitaire.  However, it’s not as “hot” as it originally was with my family.  Still if I were constructing a collection of board games to introduce, this one would definitely be included.  I’ve written up a review about this game.

Escalation!

2 – 6 players

15 minutes

Ages 10+

Played in 2008: 21

We started playing this game in 2007 and it still remain a family favorite.  I’ve recorded that we have played this game 77 times since we first owned it.  Escalation! is a fast-paced, fun card game.  We frequently use it to “break the ice” when beginning a game session.  I’ve also written up a review about this game.

Mr. Jack
2 players
30 minutes
Ages 9+
Played in 2008: 16

This is a very cool strategy game and was new for us in 2008.  The premise of the game is that one player is playing “Mr. Jack” and the other is trying to figure out who he is.  The challenge is that there are several detective figures on the game board and one of them is Mr. Jack.

The game plays pretty quick, I’ve introduced it a lunch time at work and it has seen several plays there.  It feels a little like Chess because you need to out-think you opponent carefully.  I like this game a lot, and frequently play with my son.

Stone Age
2 – 4 players
60 minutes
Ages 10+ 
Played in 2008: 13

A new game for us in 2008 too.  This is a “worker placement” game with a bit of luck too.  The board game is beautiful and the components are first-rate.  There’s even a leather dice cup.

For a while there our family played this game every week.  It’s still highly regarded by my family.

Chess
2 players
A classic and familiar game to many
Played in 2008: 12

My youngest brother hand made a wooden chess board for me back when he was in High School Wood Shop class.  I still use it to this day with a very nice set of wooden chess pieces given to me 30 years ago.  I taught Nicholas to play Chess years ago and he’s getting better at it.  These games were all played between the two of us.

Factory Fun
2 – 4 players
45 minutes
Ages 10+
Played in 2008: 12

My wife surprised me with this game as a Christmas gift last year.  She looked over my Wish List on Board Game Geek and discovered I was interested in this game.  I’m not sure how she found a copy but I was delighted.

This is a “puzzle” game.  Each player adds interesting factory machines onto their factory floor game board, looking for ways to optimize the connections (inputs and output) and locations on the floor.  I’ve played this game over lunch at work.  It also works as a solitaire game.

 

Felix: The Cat in the Sack

3 – 5 players

20 minutes

Ages 8+

Played in 2008: 10

This is a light card, auction game, by Friedemann Friese, the designer of Power Grid.  It’s not quite as fun as Escalation!, but we also use this game as a session “starter”.

 

Agricola

1 – 5 players

120 minutes

Ages 12+

Played in 2008: 8

We received our copy of this game in August, so there’s hasn’t been much of the year for playing it.  Even then it shows a healthy 8 plays in only a few months.

Agricola is a board game about farming.  And it’s an excellent game.  There’s a set of rules for the family/starter and the regular rules which provides for a rich gaming experience.  This really is an outstanding game.  I’ve read great reviews about it and enjoyed teaching it to others.  Invariably, while the game is on-going I’ll hear someone remark how cool this game is.  I recommend that if you want to learn this game, waste no time and go over and see the excellent video tutorial Scott Nicholson created on his Board Games With Scott web site.

Note that there are official rules to play this game solitaire.  Also, it’s become such a popular game that many people have “tricked out” their components with custom made pieces.  We did it too.  We made a whole set of very cute and fun custom Sheep, Pigs and Cows for use in playing this game.  It just adds to the fun.  This game is rated number 1on Board Game Geek, having been the first board game to displace Puerto Rico from it’s long-held number 1 position.

Agricola may not be for everyone but I recommend you give it a try if possible.  The only downside I feel with the game is that it can take about 3 hours to play the first time with newbies.

Hive

2 players

20 minutes

Ages 9+

Played in 2008: 8

Hive is an abstract strategy game.  Each player is provided with a set of insects that have unique movement abilities, like pieces do in Chess.  However, this plays nothing like Chess.  The board is formed by the placement of the pieces.  And the pieces can move around as each player tries to surround the opponent’s Queen Bee.

I keep a copy of this game in the car and often play a game with Nicholas if we go out somewhere for lunch or dinner.

Ticket To Ride

2 – 5 players

45 minutes

Ages 8+

Played in 2008: 8

This was our first “Euro” game and remains a family favorite.  If I’m introducing someone to European Strategy Board Games, I always bring out Ticket To Ride.  It’s reputation as an excellent “gateway” game is deserved.  We always play with the USA 1910 expansion nowadays.

Our family can usually complete a game of Ticket To Ride in 30 to 45 minutes.  We haven’t done anything to “trick” this game out, even though it is a family favorite.  I do admit though that we purchased the Ticket To Ride: Marklin game just to have the purple and white train pieces so we could use them with the original game.  You can see we’re pretty big fans of Ticket To Ride.

Cuba

2 – 5 players

120 minutes

Ages 10+

Played in 2008: 7

This is another “worker placement” game with beautiful components and game board.  It’s an economics game.  I think it’s quite a bit of fun and consider it a medium-weight strategy game, not quite as light as Ticket To Ride.  We played Stone Age and Cuba often in the same weeks, and did not tire of either.


I’m not going to break out details about the other games, but they are all excellent examples of modern board games and I am happy to have them in our collection.  Each of these games were played about a half-dozen times in the past year.  Some of the board games have not been played very often just because there’s hasn’t been lot of time, and there are so many excellent new games to choose from.  Here’s some of the remaining list.  Each entry has a link to it’s entry at Board Game Geek.

Thanksgiving Day Board Gaming

Our schedule prohibits traveling back to Ohio to visit with family members this Thanksgiving Day.  Between school schedules and my work activities, we decided to stay in Omaha for the holiday.

When talking with one of my friends from work we realized that there was an opportunity for our two families to get together and spend the day playing board games.  We’ll also stay for dinner and just make a great day of it.  Since we’re the invited guests we will be bringing a gift, but instead of a bottle of wine we thought we’d donate a new board game.  I’m not going to say which one since my friend may read this before Thanksgiving day arrives.  But it is a new additional copy of one of the games we are bringing.

Since I obviously own a large selection of excellent board games, we’ll bring along several for playing.  I thought it would be good to share here which games we selected to bring and why.  First, some parameters.  There will be 6 adults present and several children, ranging from 5 to late teen years of age.  Probably the youngest will not really be playing board games.  I imagine that we’ll have several games running in parallel.  My friend’s family enjoys playing board games and has a few very nice Euro Games already.  For example they love playing Ticket To Ride, Nexus Ops and Pandemic.  Excellent games.

We also discussed the challenge levels of the games we will play and agreed that a mix of lighter fare, like Ticket To Ride and heavier games like Power Grid would work well.  Here are the games we’ll be bringing along.  I’m not certain we’ll play them all but it’s a good selection.  The list is alphabetical and not in any favored order.  Although, as it happens, the fist entry in the list is one of my newer favorites.

 Agricola

1 to 5 players

120 minutes

Ages 12 and up

This board game is currently number 1 on Board Game Geek.  It’s a great choice because it’s very easy to teach yet has great depth and fun.  It has a “family” version of rules, and a more in-depth “gamers” version.  We play the heavier version because it’s easy to understand and is quite engaging.

Agricola is a new game about farming.  It sounds dull, but it’s actually a lot of fun.  Each turn goes very fast and every decision can be difficult.

The stock game comes with little painted wooden cubes to represent the farm animals (sheep, cattle and pigs).  For our own copy my family made custom animals from hobby clay.  Here’s a photograph of one of the custom “animeeples” my wife created for this game.  We’ll be sure to bring the custom “animeeples” when we play.  They are too cute and add to the fun of playing this excellent game.

Ave Caesar

2 – 6 players

30 minutes

Ages 12 and up

This is a fun racing game.  It’s very easy to teach.  Ave Caesar has a beautiful board and nice little chariots that each player races around the track.  Think “Ben Hur” and you get the idea.

It’s a lightweight game and should provide plenty entertainment for the younger boys and girls.  Although I’ve played this game several times with adults and it’s fun too.

Carcassonne

2 – 5 players

60 minutes

Ages 8 and up

This is the most famous euro-style tile laying strategy game.  It’s easy to learn, with maybe the exception of scoring the Farmers, and provides a lot of enjoyment.

We own all the expansions to Carcassonne and it’s one of my wife’s absolute favorite games.  The interesting thing about Carcassonne is that, depending on the players, it can vary from being lightweight fun to an outright battle-to-the-death strategy game.

Escalation!

2 – 6 players

15 minutes

Ages 10 and up

I’ve written a review about this game.  It’s a fast-paced easy to learn card game that always generates plenty of laughs.  Escalation! is one of my favorite games design by Reiner Knizia.

We often use Escalation! to start our gaming sessions.  It gets everyone in the right mood.  It’s light, fun and plays quickly.  I’m thinking this game will probably be played in parallel to the “deeper” games by younger members.

Galaxy Trucker

2 – 4 players

60 minutes

Ages 10 and up

This is a new game with great components and fun.  It’s lightweight and plays pretty quick.

Each player has to build a spaceship out of components you place together on a game board.  They can only be assembled in a “correct” manner, and you’re racing against the other players to get finished.

Then, once you have your majestic space ship assembled, all players go on a hazardous journey encountering space pirates, asteroids and other challenges.  Pieces of your space ship may become damaged and very likely fall off and be destroyed.  The fun in this game, believe it or not, is how much fun it is watching yours and your competition’s ship get pummeled to bits as the game proceeds.  It’s quite a bit of fun and easy to learn.

Metropolys

2 – 4 players

30 minutes

Ages 8 and up

This is also a new board game.  It’s easy to learn but gets your brain going in no time.  I’d rate this a game that’s only slightly more difficult to play than Ticket To Ride.

Each  player places wooden building components, almost in an auction-style game mechanic, onto the game board.  You have to pay attention to what your opponents are trying to do and plan your steps accordingly.

We play this game at the office over lunch some times.  My friend mentioned that he really liked this game and wanted to introduce it to his family.

Power Grid

2 – 6 players

120 minutes

Ages 12 and up

I love this game.  It’s one of my favorite deeper Euro games.  At it’s heart this is an economics game.  Each player is buying power plants that operate on varying kinds of fuel (coal, oil, burning trash, nuclear, or solar).  They must also build a network of powered cities onto the game board.

The purchase price of power plants increase as they become more powerful and efficient.  You end up bidding against the other players to buy power plants.  The resources needed to power your plants are available on a sliding demand scale right on the board.  As the availability of resources declines their price go up.  Each player, as they take turns, can purchase and stock resources.  This has the ability to influence what the other players may pay for resources they need.  It’s even possible to starve another player out since there’s a limited number of resources available in the game.  And lastly, as you place cities on the grid it also costs money.  Earlier investments in a location are cheaper.

With every turn you also generate electricity and power the cities connected on your grid.  The more cities you power the more income you receive.  The game has tight economics and every turn has interesting choices for players to make as they compete to have the most cities powered at the games’ end.  This is a great deeper strategy game.

Shadows over Camelot

3 – 7 players

(with the expansion it supports 8 players)

90 minutes

Ages 10 and up

Shadows over Camelot is a co-operative game.  With a twist.  The players are knights of King Arthur’s Round Table and they are trying to defend against evils on multiple fronts at once.

The rules are easy to learn and the board game and components, just like all the Day of Wonder games, are beautiful and outstanding.

The game is already difficult to “beat”.  But here’s the real twist that makes this game so much fun.  One of the players is potentially secretly a traitor and working to make everyone else lose.  It’s not assured in every game that someone is a traitor, but the odds are high that it happens.  The traitor is randomly, secretly, chosen by a card deal at the beginning of the game.

That potential for a possible traitor makes for a lot of additional tension and built-in doubts about the agenda of your fellow team mates.  Did he or she do that action because it was the best that they could do, or are they secretly a traitor?  Of course, you can accuse another player of being a traitor, but you better be right.  The interesting things is that a game may coincidently not actually have a traitor present, but no one knows for sure, so everyone scrutinizes and wonders about everything.  With the expansion, which we’ll be using, the game supports eight players and there’s actually the possibility for there to be 2 secret traitors.

After Thanksgiving Day Games post-note:

“Shadows Over Camelot” was the big hit of the evening.  We played it with a fairly large group of players — I think 8 — and with a mix of age ranges for the players from adults to early teens.  The game was enjoyed so much it got played twice in a row, even though it was getting late in the evening.

Starfarers of Catan

3 – 4 players

(with the expansion it supports up to 6 players)

120 minutes

Ages 10 and up

This is a great science fiction themed edition to the Settlers of Catan series.  We like this game a great deal.  It has excellent components, with some of the best looking retro-space ships available for each player.  The game has an additional exploration component, as each player explores the cosmos they discover what the various star systems provide as resources.  There’s also alien races to encounter and develop trade relations with.  We purchased the optional painted alien figures for our game to just add to the overall fun.

This game, like Ticket To Ride and Power Grid, was one of the first Euro board games our family learned to play and it still has a special place among our favorites.  It’s another one of my wife’s favorite games.  It’s middle-weight in depth and learning.  The only downside is that the game can take a long time with inexperienced players.  Although we can support up to 6 players, I think this game plays best with 3 or 4.

Thebes

(Also known as Jenseits von Theben)

2 – 4 players

60 minutes

Ages 10 and up

In this game you feel like an explorer seeking treasures and artifacts from ancient ruins around the globe.  It’s easy to imagine yourself as Indiana Jones.  You travel to exotic locations and “dig” for hidden treasures.  You can also return to various countries in Europe and exhibit your discoveries for points.

This game is lightweight and fun.  There’s a strong element of luck to it.  The components are outstanding.  There’s little colored cloth bags representing each dig site.  When you “dig” at the site you randomly extract cardboard chits from the bag.  Most of them will be “sand”, empty and of no value.  However there are also tablets, and statues and other rare artifacts that can bring you many points.  One of the cool thematic game mechanics concerns these bags.  When you draw out the useless “sand” chits you put them back in the bag at the end of your turn.  This makes the odds of the next player visiting the same dig site even worse.  Very cool.

Boardgames for the Fall Season of 2007

Gaming has been scarce this Fall.  Having a teenager around the house and work related activities have been priorities for attention.  Things are well, it’s just that writing about board games has taken a “back seat”.  I haven’t played a lot of board games in recent months either, but there have been some really neat new games to talk about and few old favorites.  So here goes…

1960: The Making Of The President

This is by far the best new game I have played in this past year.  It’s a real gem.  It’s a 2-person only game and can be played in about 2 hours or less.  The game recreates the Presidential election between Nixon in Kennedy in 1960.  The board is beautiful and there’s excellent quality components.

Now you might think that a game about an election would be boring.  But the theme shines through.  There are cards used throughout the game that teach or remind about the very close national election of 1960.  The pictures on the cards are wonderful to look over and they play directly into the theme of the game.  Essentially, one player plays the Nixon campaign and the other player Kennedy.  You make choices throughout the game that will improve your standings on any one or more of the 50 states.  You can also place emphasis on issues of the day.  And you can spend resources on media marketing (radio, TV, newspapers).

As you play you try to gain the advantage in states having enough electoral votes to win at the end.  The last turn of the game, where electoral votes are counted up feel so realistic, it’s just fun.  And all too often the game is very close, just like the real election was in 1960.  There’s no guarantee that either player will win and the theme and built-in history lesson is fantastic.  I really love playing this game.

It takes a little while to play the first time through, and truly neither player has a good sense for strategy.  But after a while it just clicks and you want to try it all over again.  Of course, your opponent feels the same way and once again it’s a tight election night.  Highly recommended.

Thebes

A wonderful nicely themed game about archeology.  Essentially you play an Indiana Jones-like character, visiting important sites around the world.  There’s an interesting game mechanic that accounts for elapsed time that makes for a fairly fun and fast play.  The game is again highly thematic and the components and board are absolutely beautiful.  This game handles up to 4 players.

Cold War: CIA vs KGB

This is a quick and fun 2-player card game.  Seems like lately I’ve been digging games with an historic theme.  This is a card game where each player has spies of one type or another, each competing against each other to give the highest influence over a given series of events.  There’s high level of analysis and bluffing possible and a bit of luck.  Each round a player is trying to gain just the right amount of influence without going too far and creating political unrest in the target country.  One of the really cool twists in the game is that a player can sometimes choose the Master Spy as their in-play agent.  The Master Spy causes you to want to lose the round.  Only the other player doesn’t know that so there’s this whole game mechanic regarding wondering what the other player’s motives actually are with the round.  It’s quite fun.  We play this sometimes at lunch.

Niagara

One of the most interesting features about this game is that you play it using the box.  The box halves are inverted and placed on the table.  Then the game board is placed on top.  The board itself hangs over one edge where the Falls are.  Each player is manipulating 2 little wooden boats up and down the river above the falls and obtaining gems of different colors from the shores.  Of course, your boats shouldn’t go over the Falls.  Each player can take an action to change the speed of the river current, which impacts all boats.  This is a good family game and is fairly light and fun.  I can play it once in a while and Nicholas really enjoys playing this game with our family.

Robo Rally

We played a wicked three person game of this a few weeks ago.  It’s a game that I think appeals quite naturally to programmers.  Each player controls a little robot placed on the board.  The board has thematic elements that represent spinning locations, moving conveyor belts and lasers.  All of these obstacles can make getting your little robot to go where you want quite difficult.  At the beginning of each round, players are dealt a small number of random program instruction cards for their robot to use.  These cards might say something l like, “Turn Right”, “For Forward 2 Spaces”, “Turn Around”.  The trick is that everyone needs to select the cards they want to use for their robot and the order they want them executed.  There’s a time pressure too because there’s a little 30-second sand timer with the game.  The last player has to have their robot “programmed” before the timer runs out.  It’s quite fun and a little abstract.  You have to be really good a projecting yourself onto the robot mentally to choose the proper steps to program.  In addition to the game board itself having hazards, each robot also has a laser beam pointing out the front.  If the laser points at another robot it takes damage hits.

Cash n Guns

This game is great for laughs, with the right group.  It comes with 6 orange foam guns.  You pretend to be gangsters all in a large warehouse, or someplace.  Like the movie Reservoir Dogs.  You only have a few bullets and several blanks.  Then at the right moment each player points their gun at an opponent.  Then you start bluffing.  Eventually each player either folds or takes a chance.  It’s actually a lot more fun than I make it sound.  However, I’m fairly certain games where you act like a gangster and point guns at each other isn’t always an appropriate game for the group.

Australia

I really like this game.  It’s not highly rated on Board Game Geek.  The board is well done and the components include these little plastic airplanes and a whole bunch of Rangers.  You have to study the board carefully and watch what the other players are doing.  It’s an area control game where each player places Rangers on the corners of adjacent areas to try to project influence.  It can be quite a brain burner.

Last Night On Earth

This game calls back to all those old B-Movie Zombie thrillers.  This game is actually a very good Zombies Game.  Players form teams with control of either the zombies or the poor hapless citizens.  It’s highly thematic with cards having actors and actresses portraying events and actions.  The game is well balanced for either side and provides a fun medium-to-light game activity.

Ticket To Ride (with 1910 expansion)

We still play this game often even after 3 years.  The 1910 expansion just replaces all the original train and ticket cards and adds quite a few more ticket cards.  There’s still the 10 point bonus for longest contiguous route but there’s now a 15 point bonus available for most completed tickets.  We still enjoy playing this game and it continues to be a favorite when we want something everyone can agree on that plays pretty quick.

Ra

This is one of Reiner Knizia’s best designed games.  The theme is pasted on, like most of his games are, but it’s still fun and the components are beautiful.  The game is a wonderful auction mechanic with levels of luck.  Melissa purchased a beautiful brass Egyptian figure we use to the Ra marker.  It’s become one of her favorite games.

Nexus Ops

I had forgotten how much fun this game is and then Nicholas and I played it again one evening.  The game has these neat glowing plastic alien creatures and a hex board.  It’s pretty much a war game that works for 2 to 4 players.

Recent Board Gaming

I’ve been on vacation.  I did a little work on my Squeak Development Tutorial, but mostly just spending quality time with my wife.  There has been a lot of board game playing in the past month and especially in the past week.  Here’s a recap of the board games played most often recently.  These are listed in most played order from highest to lowest.

Zooloretto

This is a very clever and family friendly board game from Michael Schacht.  It’s, not surprisingly, similar to his famous card game Coloretto.  This time it’s a board game and themed around operating a Zoo.  And it’s great fun.  It plays with 2 to 5 players in about 45 minutes.  Zooloretto won the 2007 Spiel des Jahres gaming award (German board game of the year).

Age of Empires – The Boardgame

I just published a review of this game.  It’s currently a favorite for Melissa and I.  It plays well with 2 and great with 3 or 4.  Maximum players supported is 5 and it runs around 2 to 3 hours, but the playing time feels like it’s over quickly.  It’s a wonderful strategy game.  For a lot more details about it just check out my review.

Twilight Imperium III

Still a favorite in our household.  I think this is our favorite game even though it takes a lot of time (usually) to play it.  For example, Melissa were out Friday night and came home around 11:30 PM.  She suggested she’d like to play TI-3 and so we played a 2-player variant.  It ended in about 90 minutes with her stomping me in final score.  And it was fun the whole time.  I’ve reviewed this one before and have even written an extensive tutorial for it.

World of Warcraft – The Boardgame

This is a recent new game in our household.  And it’s been getting a lot of table time.  The game runs very long – usually 5 hours for us.  It’s very involved.  The game is interesting in that the players compete against each other but work from 2 different factions.  All the players on the same faction work together.  The 2 factions oppose each other as they try to accomplish their own private Quests and eventually defeat the game Boss.  This game is fun if you like an adventure theme with lots of dice rolling.  It’s from Fantasy Flight Games and is of a very high production quality.  The game plays with 2 to 6 persons.

Starfarers of Catan

This is another long time favorite in our family.  I’ve written a review about it too.  We play a 2-person variant pretty often and even though we’ve had it for a few years now, it’s still popular.

Gloria Mundi

A relatively new strategy game for us.  This has become one of Melissa’s favorites.  It’s a board game comprised of some interesting game mechanics.  The theme is set in ancient Rome where the players are trying to flee Rome before the invading Goth army.  There’s a strong building and economic component to the game and requires players to pay close attention to what the the other players are doing to win.  Production quality is high and the game is beautiful to see.

Nautilus

Another old favorite in our family.  The board is beautiful and the theme is fun.  I’ve also written a review of this game in the past.

Escalation!

This is a new card game from Dr. Reiner Knizia.  Boy is this one fun.  It’s light and plays fast.  It’s never failed in getting repeat plays when we introduce it to friends.  This is one of those games that your friends go out and purchase after having played it.  It works with 2 to 6 players and is easy to learn and fast paced.

Colosseum

This is a high-end board game from Days of Wonder.  Colors and production values are typical for them and it plays like a medium to light strategy game.  The game is for 3 to 5 players and takes about an hour to play.

Vikings

Another high quality board game from Rio Grande Games.  Each player must make selections between building up islands and settlements.  It takes about an hour and is for 2 to 4 players.

Around the World in 80 Days

This is board game from 2004 that we only recently started playing.  The theme is exactly from the Jules Verne story.  Players are explorers racing around the world.  It officially supports 3 to 6 players but I’ve also played a 2-person variant.  There’s a clever game mechanic in this one that handles the distance vs time traveled trade-offs as the players race across the globe.

Recent Games

I’ve been involved in a number of game-related activities recently.  It’s been a curious blend of private and public gaming activities.  In addition to playing games I’ve put considerable energy into creating 2 walk-through game tutorials for Twilight Imperium III.  The tutorials took about 100 hours of my spare time, so that’s a big part of the past 30 days.

Game playing has been either with my family or some close friends.  Here’s a quick survey of games played in the past 30 days.  All of these were face-to-face board game plays.

Chess (11 plays)

Nicholas and I play this game a lot.  He’s still pretty inexperienced but I lose every once in a while and the games are engaging.  I always play Black and always without my Queen.  I’ve learned that playing without the Queen really changes my opening moves.

Twilight Imperium III (8 plays)

Nicholas and I play this game using the 2-player variant once a weekend.  Recently we introduced my wife Melissa to the game.  I’ve been telling her she would really love it once she tried it.  But she rightfully understood there’s a lot to learn and that it might take 2 games before she understood it well.  Here’s the interesting twist.  I’ve now played 5 times with her in a game and she has won 4 of those games.  She even won the first game she played.  And as predicted, she really likes playing TI-3.

Hive (4 plays)

This is another 2-player game that I often play with Nicholas.  There was one game this past month where I played with someone from work at lunch time.  Nicholas and I love to take this game along with us if we are going to a fast-food restaurant for dinner or a Saturday lunch.  We grab a booth and play Hive while we eat lunch.

Shadows Over Camelot (3 plays)

This game is fun every time.  In the past month I’ve played a 3-person game and twice as a 4-person game.  We had a “Traitor” in one of the 4 player games.  The first time Melissa and I played this game with Blaine and his wife Michelle, they immediately wanted to play it again.  So we did.

Lost Cities (2 plays)

This is one of my favorite 2 player games.  Sometimes I play this at work during lunch and sometime late in the evening with my wife.

The remaining games were played once each this past month.

Memoir ’44

Days of Wonder made a great 2-player tactical war game with Memoir ’44.  Nicholas and I play this one once in a while.  We usually play the basic initial scenario.  Nicholas likes to play the Allies because they have some pretty strong advantages in the beginning scenario.

Railroad Tycoon

We don’t play this one at home as often as we used to.  Mostly because Melissa has had problems playing the game well and so she tended not to “vote” for this game when the family wanted to play a game together.  For one of the games we played with Blaine and Michelle, I decided to bring Railroad Tycoon mostly because at that time Blaine was working for one of the big railroad companies and I knew he and his wife would like it.  Here’s another interesting twist.  When we played with Blaine and Michelle, Melissa really enjoyed the game.  She also won, which might be what changed her opinion about the game.

Scrabble

This is an old family favorite.  Melissa and I used to play this game almost every night.  Since we discovered “Euro” games (beginning with Ticket to Ride”) we pretty much dropped playing Scrabble and only bring it out once in a while.  Here’s an interesting observation about something that happened the last time we played Scrabble as a 3 person family game.  Melissa announced during the game that it felt boring and that we should quit and play a game of Twilight Imperium III.  We went ahead and finished the Scrabble game but immediately started a TI-3 game afterwards.

Starfarers of Catan

Starfarers is a family favorite.  We bought extra ships which were painted for more player colors and we purchased the little alien figurines — adding thematic flavor.  This game still gets played fairly often in our household.  In fact it’s the number 5 most played game in our home.  And the top 5 list includes short 2-player games like Lost Cities and Chess.

Ticket to Ride

I can’t say enough good things about Ticket to Ride.  It’s a family favorite.  We recently added the “1910” expansion for Ticket to Ride.  It replaces the original worn out cards and adds many new ones.  I recommend this expansion if you love this game.

Warrior Knights

This game is deep and usually takes between 2 and 3 hours to play.  And our family loves it.  We introduced this game to Blaine and Michelle and everyone enjoyed the game.

Heroscape Fun

I played a bunch of Heroscape games in recent days.  One of the designs was from a standard scenario.  The other was one we created using 3 standard kits and a number of expansions.

I just wanted to share some pictures from these games.

The first series is where we used a standard scenario using the new glacier, ice and snow pieces.

The second series was a more involved game.  We put a lot of effort into making an interesting board.  A rule we made for playing this board was that there could be no flying creatures.  Armies were drafted with a maximum of 365 points.

That last photograph and the one from the top of the article tell a big part of the story for how the game progressed.  I lost.  My son did a very effective job of stationing armies with range weapons near the edge of the river and just picked off my armies as they tried to scurry across the terrain.  The Boston Lineman, shown above, made easy work of my Orc squad.

The game was fun, even though I lost miserably.  I experimented with using range-attack-1 armies with fast running squads.  He went with a lot of long range army squads.  With the exception of one Unique Hero that I had, having a very long range bow weapon, it was fairly quickly turned into a losing game about half way through.

Photographs of Recent Gaming Sessions

It’s fun to see board games in action.  I’ve included snapshots of some of the recent games our family has been playing.

Here’s a 2-player Carcassonne game.  You can see we are using the Traders and Builders expansion, The River expansion and The Count of Carcassonne expansion (we call him Count Olaf).

Here’s a 2-player Power Grid game.

We’re using poker chips for money.  You can also see the custom resource replenishment cards I printed out as an aid.  There’s one just at the south west corner of the board.

Here’s a 2-player game of Starfarers of Catan.

This picture shows us using the painted figures for the alien races.

The picture also shows the rocket booster replacement ring attached to a mother ship.  If you look near the upper side of the board you can see the silver painted space ships.  Melissa painted those from an extra expansion set I purchased.

Here’s a recent favorite game I hope to Blog about soon:  Runebound.

A close-up shows better the glass gems we added.

I also added some custom player sheets, you can see the corner of one at the bottom of this picture.  I also purchased extra sets of movement dice, one for each player.  It makes the turns go a little smoother.  We got so into this game that each of us had to have a special colored set of battle dice.  You can see a pair of blue dice on the left side of this photograph.

Runebound is a very engaging game.  The game takes a few hours to finish (maybe 3), but as evidence how much we like playing, we started 3 games and ran out of time, over a period of a week, and yet kept coming back to play again.

Nicholas and I sometimes get into Heroscape.  Here are a few shots of different game layouts we’ve developed.

I purchased a couple of extra Master Sets back when Toys R Us had a 2-for-1 sale, just to get extra landscape tiles.  Half the fun of this game, for me, is creating the landscape we play on.

A Splendid Time Was Had By All

A SPLENDID TIME WAS HAD BY ALL…

…playing Carcassonne.

Our company (or little sub part of it) had a picnic recently. I decided it might be a fun time to introduce a “Euro-style” board game and see if anyone would be willing to play.  My choice was Carcassonne.

It’s such an easy game to learn; it’s a small box; it’s highly addictive. Oh yea, it’s lots of fun. Our family owns all the expansion packs I know of, but I decided that the “basic game” was the right way to go for introductions. The morning before the picnic I divided the game tiles and ended up with a cloth bag full of only the original game pieces. All set to go.

It was a hit. Overall all we played two games. The first one with 5 players, and the second one with three. In the initial game the scoring went exactly like most modern German strategy board games: We didn’t know for certain who was going to win until near the very end. In our first game we had one monster city being built and quite a bit of competition to “own” it. There were other smaller cities but when it was completed the dominant owner ended up moving way out ahead and won the game. It was risky since the last 3 tiles played were exactly the right ones needed.

You can purchase the game at local game hobby shops (sometimes comic book shops) and even at Toys R Us. I saw a copy at a local TRU recently and was amazed it was there. Maybe Rio Grande Games is test marketing at TRU. You can also purchase on-line of course.

To learn more about the game, I recommend Board Game Geek. Here’s the game entry . Carcassonne has been around for a number of years, but it’s still an excellent and well played game. Some of the serious hard-core gamers I’m certain have outgrown it but I recommend this as a “gateway” game to show people who think Monopoly and Scrabble is all there is.